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Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia: Implications for Regional Security

Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia: Implications for Regional Security, edited by Joshua H. Ho and Sam Bateman. Routledge, 2012, 336 pp.

Joshua H. Ho, of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, and Sam Bateman, of the Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security, have teamed up to turn out an impressive work illustrating maritime challenges of pressing importance for Asia-Pacific countries. Both editors are retired naval officers with distinguished careers from their respective countries prior to joining the ranks of academia. Their unique backgrounds establish their credibility not only as former uniformed practitioners familiar with the region, but as serious academics.

Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia includes contributions from 18 experts on the region who provide unique perspectives based on the 14 countries they represent. Many presented papers at a conference hosted by Singapore’s Rajaratnam School of International Studies in January 2010. Thematically, the book addresses regional maritime challenges affecting good order at sea following the “four historic attributes of the sea” developed by Geoffrey Till: “the sea as a resource, the sea as a medium of transport and exchange, the sea as the medium for information and the spread of ideas and sea as a medium for dominion.” Till’s attributes are then woven throughout the four parts of the book. Part I, “Overview of Maritime Challenges in Asia,” lays a foundation for the reader by defining the challenges to good order at sea in the Asia-Pacific and what is necessary to maintain that order. Aside from chapter 3, “Carriage Capacity of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore,” which at times assumes the reader is familiar with the challenges associated with sailing through this choke point, Part I provides a solid foundation for the remainder of the book. Part II, “Maritime Challenges and Priorities,” details specific challenges faced by Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Six of the seven chapters are written by scholars from these countries. This is perhaps the most important section of the book as it provides perspectives from those living in the region—something unique among most Asia-region anthologies published in the United States. As a number of these countries are at the forefront of territorial disputes with China, the insight gleaned adds to the value of the book.

Part III, “Maritime Challenges in Northeast Asia,” provides perspective from Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scholars. One point of particular interest is found in chapter 11, “China’s Maritime Security.” The authors provide a Chinese perspective on the nature of maritime boundary disputes in the region. This is critical information as these disputes are becoming increasingly heated of late with the potential to develop into regional conflict. The final section, “Maritime Challenges and Priorities for the Rest of the Indo-Pacific,” has four chapters providing an outlook on the region as seen by the United States, Australia, India, and New Zealand as well as the book’s conclusion.

Maritime Challenges and Priorities in Asia is well written, and the ideas within are easily digestible. The book does a great job framing maritime challenges in the region from the perspective of regional stakeholders. Each of the 14 nations represented has a different interpretation of what constitutes good order at sea, maritime security, and what is necessary to maintain it. After reading this book, one will be familiar with the intricacies and nature of the maritime security challenges the Asia-Pacific region faces. This sort of insight is particularly useful to those interested in the region. Far too often, scholarship seems to ignore perspectives of regional stakeholders. Given the renewed emphasis placed on the region by the Obama administration, the complexity of the regional maritime challenges, and the implications should these challenges spiral out of control, the book is a timely addition to existing scholarship on the region. The work is a must read for both military practitioners, regardless of service orientation, and regional scholars alike.

CDR Robert E. Poling, USN

Air War College

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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